The new Chichester season opens with Alan Bennett’s 1968 revue-style play, Forty Years On.
Ostensibly an end-of-term entertainment at a public school Bennett uses the play to explore the effects of the two world wars on the British public.
Directed by new artistic director, Daniel Evans, and performed on a beautiful and inclusive set (we are effectively sat in the school-hall) the script sparkles with Bennett’s trademark intelligent wit and – for the most part – the cast live up to it.
The expertly-drilled ensemble of local schoolboys perform just as expertly. The eight principal schoolboys – professional actor/musicians – are the high-point of the show; their vocals are swooningly smooth, their movement expert and precise.
Danny Lee Winter as Tempest is camply wonderful and does a superb Maggie Smith impersonation while Jenny Galloway’s gin-swigging Matron is a masterclass in comic timing. Alan Cox as Franklin – whose idea the end-of-term show has been – is measured, cynical, dry and very funny.
But one cannot fail to mention that star-name, Richard Wilson, simply does not know the words, tripping over lines and – more often than not – blatantly reading from a script. While his reading is enjoyable the professionalism of the performance is undermined and those paying top-price for their tickets may well have cause for complaint.
Until May 20.